Cheesemaking (How to Homestead Day 5)

It only takes one moment to change and swirl views and to clarify answers.  One moment.  I have been near out of my mind trying to make a decision over the last nine months or so.  Should I go back to school?  For what?  Do I want a career?  School is upwards of (an additional from last time) fifty grand.  Should I focus on paying off debt instead?  Am I meant to be a teacher, anthropologist, or chef?  A conversation between Emily, Reed, Doug and I and we were pricing out land.  Even though it turns out we will have to wait another one to three years to move forward with that idea, it snapped me into the present.  My confusion should have been the key that I was not on the right path pursuing school.  My career is homesteading.

You can save a lot of money by homesteading, and you can make money if you choose as well, making it a viable career, particularly for a housewife.  There is great serenity to be found slowly stirring a pot of curdling milk and turning it into sharp cheddar.  Or sitting before a fire while crocheting a blanket.  Carefully pulling tiny weeds among the lettuces.  Gathering eggs and throwing scratch.  Hanging clothes on the line.  Piecing a quilt.  The smell of baking bread filling the house.  Serving delicious farmstead fresh food to your family and loved ones.  Yes, this is the life for me and mine.

If you are like me and are homesteading in a city that does not allow goats, then you will need to find a milk share.  I had a choice between goat milk and cow’s milk.  Goat’s milk contains identical enzymes to ours so is easier to digest.  It tastes delicious to us, but some folks prefer the super creamy cow’s milk.  You can use pasteurized milk (not ultra-pasteurized) for making cheese, but I am a raw milk gal myself.  Why kill all the nutrients?  That seems silly.

For soft cheeses, you will need nothing more than a pot, a thermometer, and cheesecloth.  Soft cheese is rather forgiving and you can use lemon juice or specific enzymes for making soft white cheese, like chevre.  (You can get these at Cheesemaking.com)

Simply heat a gallon of goat’s milk on the stove slowly until it reaches 86 degrees.  Pour in a packet of enzymes for chevre.  Let sit for 2 minutes.  Stir well and cover for 12 hours.  (I forgot to take a picture.  I also forgot after 12 hours and it ended up sitting for 24 hours!)

20190604_190721

Strain through a cheesecloth, reserving whey.  Whey is highly nutritious.  I gave some to my old cats and my dog.  I reserved some for the cheese to make it the consistency I want.  And some can be saved for bread making as well.  I use a strainer and clothes line clips to secure.  Let sit for 4-8 hours.  (Now, I had to go to bed two hours later so I put the whole thing in the fridge so it ended up sitting for 11 hours.  See!  Very forgiving.)

I only had 1/2 a gallon of milk this time so I used 1/2 packet of enzymes.  I will add lots of fresh herbs from the garden to this and make a lovely cheese for homemade pizza tonight.

If you make a lot more than you need you can roll a small log into plastic wrap, then foil, then pile the logs into a gallon bag and freeze.

To go further, purchase a cheese press, mesophilic and thermophilic starters along with rennet (vegetable or animal), and a great book.  That will get you started.  Cheese making is not as hard as it sounds and you may find yourself coming up with all sorts of delicious creations to serve with a glass of homemade wine!

Here are just a few of my posts with exact instructions.  Easy Homemade Goat Cheese and How to Make Hard Cheese 

The Happy Cheese Maker

IMG_20170917_102206We made arrangements to go see Sherry’s farm to pick up our first share of fresh, raw goat’s milk.  Roughly twelve minutes of driving and we were there.  I had no idea that we were so close to the farms in this area.  Goats frolicked here and there as her livestock dog barked.  Our new goat girl’s granddaughter skipped among the Alpines and La Manchas.  Piglets ran around in an enclosure in the back.  Chickens and ducks freely marched about.  Their wild vegetable garden looked prolific and baby goats looked for someone to give them a bottle.  We went home with two and a half gallons of delicious, frothy milk after lots of goat hugs.

IMG_20170917_103846

20170920_160636It has been two and a half years since I have made cheese.  I used to turn our own goat’s milk into a rich Gouda,  sharp cheddar, creamy chevre, and many other wheels of wonderful cheese.  I was surprised how quickly it all came back to me as I slowly stirred the curds.  A two pound wheel of cheddar is drying on the counter.

20170920_175214

We may not be able to have goats in the city but we can certainly help out another Farmgirl and get all the cheese we want in the process!

20170921_071940

Here are a few links to my blog posts about making cheese;

Soft cheese and Hard Cheese

Thanks for reading and helping me keep this blog alive and thriving.  Happy Autumn!

How to Make Easy Farmer Cheese (and supporting your local farmer)

cow

A ex dairy farmer who then has to begin purchasing from other farmers has a small heart attack when billed.  Never mind the cost of sweet feed, alfalfa, minerals, milking implements, and boyfriends, we don’t see all that, we just hear $8 for a half a gallon of fresh, frothy, raw milk.  $6 for free roaming delicious eggs.  “Oy, I used to get that for free!” I yelp. (Of course it wasn’t free…)

Okay, so yes, for a buck fifty you can get subpar, pasteurized, feed lot cow’s milk.  Some cheap eggs from chickens that don’t move…ever.

Now, relooking at costs.  I made 3 cups of fresh farmer cheese last night for the cost of the milk.  $8.  If we consider how much 4 ounces of goat cheese or farmer cheese costs in the store (around $5) we can easily see the deal we are getting.  This constitutes the protein in a meal, so replaces meat.  Eggs make several meals and additions to recipes, making it a very economical meal, even at $6.

The key is changing one’s perspective that farm food is the same as supermarket food.  It is much higher nutritionally and much more delicious.  It provides more meals at home around the table.  And helps a farmer.  We are a dying breed.  Women farmers represent 20% of all farmers.  But with up to 5000 farmers calling it quits (or losing, like we did) we need to support local agriculture.  We just have to.  I’ll be joining the ranks of women farmers again but I cannot have goats in the city we are moving to so no milking…yet.  In the meantime, I will support a farmer.  It is well worth the extra few bucks.

Here is an easy recipe for farmer cheese.  You can use store bought milk but if you can get a half gallon of raw, please do so.

Jpeg

Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into pot and heat over medium heat stirring often until just boiling.  Turn off heat.

Jpeg

Pour in 1/4 cup of homemade red wine vinegar (click here for the recipe), other vinegar, or lemon juice.  Watch the curds separate from the whey.  If needed add another 1/4 cup.  The red wine vinegar makes a pretty color.

JpegJpeg

Once separated, pour into a colander lined with good cheesecloth.  I mean it, spring for the good cheesecloth.  (Geez, I don’t even have clothes pins anymore.  I am starting my homesteading journey again from scratch!  I used a headband to secure the cheesecloth to the colander.)  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sea salt over cheese.

Jpeg

Fold sides together and hang off the side of the pot for 2-12 hours.

Jpeg

When finished, remove cheesecloth while placing cheese in bowl.  From here you have a very plain tasting cheese.

Jpeg

Here I added 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  1 teaspoon of truffle salt.  A drizzle of garlic oil.  1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  A dash of sugar.  Use hands to combine and crumble.

Other ideas would be sugar and cranberries, and orange zest.  Or minced garlic and chives.  Use your imagination!  Put in enchiladas, lasagna, in salad, on crackers topped with jam.  Homemade cheese is an easy homesteading staple!

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading School Returns

Wanted: a cheese press

“You got the bug again?” Lisa asked over text when I inquired whether our friend still has Nancy’s old one.

“No.  It never left.”

I have friends with small dairies producing delicious milk for a great price.  Why shouldn’t I still make cheese?  Oh, because I don’t have a cheese press!!  Easily remedied, hopefully.

Doug and I enjoyed a cheese flight along with an amazing California red blend yesterday.  A slightly tangy semi-soft cheese, a creamy brie from France, a sharp and heavenly cheese with truffles nestled in its layers, a mild gouda.  All exceptional.  I loved creating cheeses and I believe we can still do that here in our humble apartment with the same success or even more so for the constant environment and beautifully laid out kitchen.

canning

I will still be canning this year.  I have plans for the wall behind the dining room table.  By autumn’s end it will be a wall of shelving filled with colorful spectacles of jeweled canning jars filled with winter sustenance.

Pots of vegetables and herbs will line my west facing balcony.  I am just homesteading on a smaller scale.

Someone asked at the sustainability fair if I teach homesteading classes.  I said I used to but why can’t I still?  I am just homesteading on a smaller level, the same as many folks.  Let’s start classes again!  What do you want to learn?  How to make cheese?  How to can produce?  How do dehydrate?  How to freeze?  How to garden in pots on the balcony?  How to….the sky’s the limit.  Your place or mine.  Let’s do it.

The Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading School is back.

 

 

 

 

How to Make Fabulous Fondue

IMG_1803

When I was little my mother let me and my sisters and brothers pick our favorite food for our birthday dinner.  Mine was always fondue.  I never did make it as my kids were growing up.  I always had a fondue pot but never knew a good recipe or felt I had the time to prepare it.  So last night when the fondue pot was brought out I felt like a little kid!  Pat and Margie also let me write down her mother’s recipe for perfect fondue.  And oh my, it was delicious!  Since fondue is a special way to celebrate (their daughter flew in from New York to surprise Margie for her birthday) they let me share the recipe with you too!

IMG_1786

IMG_1787

IMG_1790

Pour 2 cups of white wine (Pat used Chardonnay) into the fondue pot with 3 cloves of minced garlic and let simmer until fragrant.

IMG_1788

IMG_1792

My job was to cut up a day old baguette into chunks.

IMG_1791

Pat poured just under a 1/2 cup of Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) into a measuring cup and whisked in 5 tablespoons of corn starch and set aside.

IMG_1789

IMG_1795

IMG_1794

IMG_1797

16 ounces of Swiss Emmentaler was sliced.

8 ounces of Swiss cheese slices were at the ready.

And the real treat was 7 ounces of Gruyere.

IMG_1793

These were all slowly added to the pot.  A chopstick was used to blend.

IMG_1799

IMG_1800

The measuring cup of cornstarch and Kirschwasser was poured in and blended well.  This is stirred until thickened and bubbly.  A good dash of paprika and white pepper was added.

IMG_1801

At the very end a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda is added to fluff up and perfect the fondue.

IMG_1796

IMG_1798

Serve with a fresh salad, wine, and good friends!

IMG_1802

The Little Dairy (a homesteader’s necessity!)

IMG_1132

Every homestead would benefit from a goat.  These dog-sized animals come with mega personality and fun while giving delicious milk for the homestead dairy cupboard along with chocolate milk, cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, and ice cream!  Goats don’t cost much more than a dog does and the investment is paid back in crazy antics (like jumping 360’s off of a pile of tires), snuggles, and food.

image8

Goats are great with kids and teach them about farming.  There are many cities and counties that allow goats now.  There are many types of goats to choose from ranging from Nigerian Dwarves to Saanens.  Dwarves give one to two quarts a day of rich milk while Saanens and Nubians can give one to two gallons a day!  Not too shabby.

image7

I love cows but they are hard to sneak into the city and they eat a lot.  Our Isabelle gives more than a gallon a day.  It is illegal to sell raw, nutrient rich, frothy, delicious milk.  However, a share is a good way to help other families receive a bit of milk for themselves. Our shareholders pay a small buy-in fee and a weekly boarding fee which entitles them to a set amount of milk.  So, Isabelle essentially belongs to four families!

IMG_1019

Our household still has plenty for cooking, drinking, and putting into vast amounts of coffee before farm chores.  I also make two pounds of cheese a week.  Today I will make Manchego aged in truffle oil.  I expected to have Elsa in milk too (she is doing great at her new home, by the way) so I was going to use Elsa’s milk for our needs and cheesemaking and Isabelle could supply shares.  But our plans never work out quite like we think!  Isabelle is still giving us all we need and lots of kisses as bonus.

image6

Goats are one of the only things that pay for themselves on this farm!  They do better in pairs.  Isabelle is a little tired of being followed around by her two month old sheep brothers, adorable as they are.  We traded Isabelle’s doeling for a doeling from Poppy, our friend Jenet’s goat, who is due in a few weeks.  We are hoping for a girl!  Then a little two day old Nubian will join our humble homestead.  If not, then we will be on the lookout for a companion for Isabelle and future milker.

IMG_3396

The other side of having a delightful goat that gives sustenance to a farm is the time involved.  Every day, rain or shine, or blizzard, Isabelle is milked at 8:00 in the morning and 8:00 in the evening.  Every.  Single.  Day.  This halts one’s spur-of-the-moment plans, but it is worth it.

IMG_1144

This year, I have been cutting the rounds of cheese in half so that I have one pound wheels.  One to keep, one to give fine folks that donate to our farm.  I blended white wax with red wax and found it created a lovely pink patina to cover my cheeses with.  I love it.  My favorite color. I think it will be my new thing.

IMG_1063

I simply cannot imagine a homestead without a goat.  A homestead necessity!

How to Make Hard Cheese (step by step and sooo worth it!)

IMG_3779

My first batch of cheese this year was started with Miss Isabelle’s delicious, frothy, rich milk.  I am going to show you how to make a variation of Guido’s Cheese from the book “Home Cheese Making” by Rikki Carroll.  I chose this one to demonstrate because it is forgiving and versatile, a perfect first hard cheese.  I gleefully fed my friends it last summer along with red wine and homemade pickles.  It is truly delightful to make your own cheese.  All winter, after I had run out I begrudgingly bought cheese.  Oh, the horror! (expensive stuff) This year I will produce enough to put up for winter and include it in our milk share from our farm so others can try it too.

IMG_3754

First put 1/2 teaspoon of rennet in a 1/2 cup of un-chlorinated water and set aside.

IMG_3753

Pour 16 cups of milk (2 gallons of cow’s, goat’s, raw, or store-bought) into a large pot and bring temperature to 90 degrees over medium heat, stirring often.

IMG_3758

IMG_3756

Add one package of Thermophilic starter (I get mine from Buckley’s Homestead Supply in Colorado Springs or Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora or you can order online.) and stir well. Put lid on and let sit for 25-30 minutes.

IMG_3755

Stir in diluted rennet and let sit for another 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes cut the curds in a checkerboard pattern with a long knife.  It is not an exact science, just slice through the yogurt-like mass every inch or so in one direction, then in the other direction, then kind of sideways.

IMG_3761

Now here comes the part about patience and the reason I didn’t think I would enjoy cheese making, but I do love it and I do love cheese, so this here is a labor of love (for cheese).  Stirring near constantly we have to finagle the stove so that we can raise the temperature one degree every minute for thirty minutes.  Most other cheeses we have to do this in a sink of water and add copious amounts of hot water to achieve this effect, but this one allows us to use the stove and cheat a little.

IMG_3762

Now I am at 120 degrees.

IMG_3760

I prepared a mold with cheesecloth and secured it with clothes pins.

IMG_3759

I place a strainer over another pot (to catch the whey) and pour the cheese into the strainer.

IMG_3763

Pack the cheese into the mold.

IMG_3764

Fold over the top of the cheesecloth and place a 3-4 pound weight on top.  If you are using a cheese press this can just be three inches of water in an empty milk carton hanging from the end of the handle.  You may as well get a cheese press, this activity is rather addicting!  You could use a cantaloupe or something, I suppose, as the weight.  The mold just needs to be a cylinder with holes in it.

IMG_3765

Now, we unwrap the cheese after fifteen minutes or so, turn it over, rewrap, and reset the weight.  The book tells us to do this several times at the beginning then a few more times over 4-6 hours.  The first time I made this I had just gotten the thing wrapped when I heard I needed to be at my son’s wedding three hours earlier than I thought.  So, left it and came back, turned it a few times, it was fine.  This time I had to go to Elizabeth to drop the baby off to her daddy so the cheese got turned three times over 4 hours.  It wasn’t as compact and sharp looking as store cheese, but it would do.  It was pretty tall so I actually cut it in half.  We’ll find out in a few weeks if that was alright to do.  After the four to six hours let sit under the weight for 24 hours.

IMG_3766

Make a brine using one pound of sea salt to one gallon of near boiling water.  Let cool down.  Maybe plan ahead and make it the night before.  I ought to do this.

IMG_3778

Place cheese in brine and turn every so often for 24 hours.

IMG_3779

Place on paper towels and keep in cool, dry place (like the cheese fridge) for 3 weeks, turning a few times a day at first (if you remember!) and then once a day or so after.  After two days you could soak the cheese in red wine for 24 hours then continue the drying process.  After three weeks, it is ready.  Just in time to celebrate summer!

The Kitchen Counter Cheese Cave

I was pleasantly surprised last year that not only did I enjoy making cheese, it also turned out amazing.  I usually do not enjoy tedious tasks that take a long time, but I rather enjoyed the process and definitely the result!  The problem is finding a place to store the wheels of cheese where they can properly age and develop flavors without being eaten by mice or molding.

IMG_0818

The proper temperature for aging cheese is 55 degrees with a bit of humidity.  I thought our old coal chute in the basement in the last house would be good but it was very dusty, had mice, and was sixty-five degrees all summer. I read that one could use a mini-fridge and I borrowed my friend’s.  The problem was that by keeping it on the highest setting to attain fifty-five degrees, the small freezer part kept leaking on the cheese.

I found a refrigerator on Craigslist that was cheap because it didn’t cool any lower than fifty degrees.  Jack pot!  After placing a bowl of water in there with the cheese I created quite a nice environment.  Then we moved.  The jostling of the fridge on the trailer made it begin to work!  It froze the cheese.  When it defrosted,  it began to mold something awful and the chickens were gifted wheels of really stinky cheese.

We tried a cooler with an ice pack.  We tried the back guest room.  No where was quite right.

IMG_0817

I thought about it all winter.  Fifty-five degrees.  What keeps its temperature at fifty-five degrees?  And then I recalled the wine fridge that sat atop the counter at our friends’ house.  Fifty-five degrees for good red wine.  Holy smokes, I was excited.  Wine and cheese at the ready all summer.

We found one at the hardware store on sale, no less.  I am borrowing another cheese press this summer to make more cheese.  I’ll have two going at a at time.  Manchego, a light Italian cheese, Parmesan, sharp Cheddar….oh my.  I’ve missed my own cheese.  Purchasing it in the store is sadly lacking.  The girls are due in four weeks!  Fresh milk is on the way!